A Jamming Diversity

7.3.11 (Dave Lavery)

Phish’s creative burst of 2011 has changed the face of the modern band atop a solid, two-year foundation. But their current jamming has been less-defined by a single sound or style than ever before. Each era of the band’s illustrious history is virtually synonymous with its style of improv. The “speedjazz” of ’93, the abstract space exploration of Summer ’95, the fast-paced, psych rock of Fall ’95, the groove explosion in ’97, the ambient movement of Fall ’98, yada, yada, yada. But looking at Phish 2011, the band’s revitalized jamming can not be pigeonholed into a single sound. Let’s take some standout excursions from Super Ball, alone, as examples—”Simple,” “Golden Age,” “A Song I Heard the Ocean Sing,” “Piper,” “Disease” and “Light.” Looking at these songs as a microcosm of the band’s musical place in time, one can simply observe the diversity of music being cranked out by Phish right now.

5.31.11 (B.Ferguson)

Whether engaging in syrupy grooves and bass-led, rhythmic abstractions (“Golden Age” and “Disease”), using ambient sound sculptures to uplift the spirit (“Simple”) or to explore the dark side (“ASIHTOS”), dropping into intricate psychedelia (“Light”) or that of the driving variety (“Piper”), Phish’s game is razor sharp in every direction right now. The result of this jamming diversity is a completely non-homogeneous sound for the band—something that has been relatively rare in their career. There haven’t been many eras where Phish migrated between such vastly different improvisational textures from jam to jam. More often than not, jams of a certain era boasted “a sound” that couldn’t be stripped from that place in time, such as the break-neck virtuosity of Summer ’93, the Cowfunk of Summer ’97 or the meandering and murky explorations of 2003. But without a microscope on one specific style these days, the band has spread their wings and embraced the totality of their career, drawing elements from every era, while still pushing forward into original pastures.

The spectrum of territory covered in June spanned many new styles while evoking old ones along the way. Bethel’s “Waves,” PNC’s “Drowned,” Detroit’s “Disease,” Blossom’s “Sally,” Cincy’s “Tweezer,” Charlotte’s “Ghost,” Mansfield’s “Rock and Roll,” and “Bethel’s “Halley’s”—all beasts of completely different feathers—are jams that can stand up to any era of Phish, regardless of anyone’s personal preferences. (And we haven’t even discussed the precision and creativity infused in their contained jamming.) This is the time we have been waiting for, the time that Phish is moving forward again, creating original and masterful music on the spot without hesitation.The bravado of the band we once knew has bloomed under the summer sun in a way many never thought it would after Hampton ’09 was announced.

6.11.11 (Brian Ferguson)

It has been a popular catch-phrase these days for fans to say, “Sure Phish is back, but they will never be as good as… yada, yada, yada.” When I hear this I hear people longing for the past, longing for familiarity and nostalgia, a desire for Phish’s to reproduce a place in time that can never be relived—20 minute funk grooves or whatever their pleasure may be. But the past is just that—over; nothing but thoughts and memories. It often seems that so many people are caught up in what the music *isn’t* these days, that they are completely missing what it *is*—which is, quite clearly, the dawning of another peak era. And this time, there are less musical boundaries than ever.

7.2.11 (G.Lucas)

Phish just wouldn’t be Phish if they came back and were musically complacent. The quartet from Vermont has always been about pushing the limits of live music; stretching the walls of improvisation while redefining the relationship between a band and their audience. And now, with sober minds, blazing skills and unbridled confidence, the band will set sail on the back end of a transformative summer, and where their jams will go, nobody knows. And that, my friends, is the beauty of things.


“The Philler” Talks With Mr. Miner: Airing Tomorrow!

The Philler is a Phish-related, weekly “cloudcast” created by three Phish fans, Robert Champion and his cohorts “Electric” Sammy” and “Stardog” Greg. The Philler brings on outside guests to talk about anything and everything related to Phish music and culture. They have recently covered Super Ball and are currently working on a Summer 2011 Leg One roundup. I have been asked to come on the program to discuss the history of this blog, my upcoming book, and about Phish in general. The interview will be streaming on Wednesday at TBA, so make sure to tune in for what should be a fun and interesting conversation.

Previous cloudcasts from The Philler can be found here. If you like what you hear then please feel free to follow the page to receive updates on new programs.


Jam of the Day:

Tweezer > Fluffhead” 8.1.98 II

One of the seminal “Tweezers” of the late -’90s celebrated its 13th birthday yesterday, and here it is—from Alpine Valley— in all its soundboard glory.

[audio:http://phishthoughts.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/04-Tweezer-_-Fluffhead-1998-08-01-Alpine-Valley-Music-Amphitheatre-East-Troy-WI.mp3] Tags: , , ,

902 Responses to “A Jamming Diversity”

  1. garretc Says:

    Today I begin packing for tour. Stoked.

  2. jonacho Says:

    I love that part of this discussion is about all the emotions that come up around seeing the band.
    There are so many emotions – and that to me is part of the point – I want to be affected. I am amazed at how much of that happens outside of the show itself.
    ohhhhh. its getting close!

  3. tela'smuff Says:

    damn Miner. f’in brilliant. inspiring. can’t wait!!!!

    pre-rolling kind of mornin’. ready to get this shit on.

  4. [an unrelated] Wilson Says:

    had to restore my ipod before some time at the beach with the family last week, so i just frantically dumped the summer ’11 stuff on there on the way out the door. When i finally got down to chilling late at night, i realized that was all I had to listen to. None of my old “go-to” shows or jams from years long gone. Then, it hit me. There was nothing else i wanted, or more importantly, needed.

    can you think of a better compliment for the band?

    c’mon Tahoe.

  5. Leo Weaver Says:

    Willowed’s got it down. My Gorge>Tahoe plans simmered for a month or so before I finally sprung it on Mrs. Weaver, though hints and references had been dropped. Had to get all the pieces in place and come up with a good trade to offer her (she’s going down to the beach for a week with my mom, sister, and aunt…I came out waaay waaay on the good end of that one).

  6. willowed Says:

    Nice Leo
    It’s like a game of poker.

  7. willowed Says:

    I also played the sad” card like a champ.
    I dropped little hints that I was so upset that I missed Watkins.
    Sacrifice for the family, yadda, yadda. Made her feel really bad you know.
    Then bammo – Can I fly to CO?

    Worked like a charm.

    Evil laugh. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

    Kidding, my wife is a saint. It helps that I work hard and i’m not a fuck up either. That plays a part.

  8. SillyWilly Says:

    Hanging out with the Girls is the trick in my relationship.

    My girl, who we’ll affectionately refer to as C-Murder: “So, my girlfriends from work are going to a bar tonight. I’d love it if you came with and met them…”

    Silly, ears perking up – realizes leverage when it smacks him in the face: “Ohhh, babe, that sounds wonderful. I’m sooo excited to meet your girlfriends from work.”

    C-Murder: “Really!? You want to come?”

    Silly: “You know I, umm, love dancing at the pop country bars.”

    C-Murder: “You’re so great.”

    Silly buys several vodka and fruit drinks, holds purses, becomes very interested in the comparison of all outfits worn by girlfriends from work, pays for the cab.

    At night, just before sleep, C-Murder: “Silly, you were so good tonight. Anything you want to do soon?”

    Silly: “Well, ummm, I’d love to go see Phish if it’s no trouble…”

  9. Leo Weaver Says:

    I think you and I attended the same school of marriage negotiations Willowed. Silly, you’re learning…but sounds like your leverage standard may still be a little too high. Dancing at a pop country bar??? 😉

  10. SillyWilly Says:

    @Leo Weaver

    grinding’s grinding.

  11. [an unrelated] Wilson Says:

    pop country in the pursuit of phish is no vice.


  12. willowed Says:

    but sounds like your leverage standard may still be a little too high
    Agreed leo. Come on Silly, you can do better.

    I stubbed my toe on a chair one day because my wife left her shoes in the kitchen.

    Her little mishap got me to Jones Beach!

    It went something liek this:

    Willowed: Ouch fuck!
    Mrs. Willowed: What happened?
    Willowed: Your friggin shoes in the kitchen again!
    Mrs. Willowed: I’m so sorry,can I help you?
    Willowed: Yes, pack up my Air Max’s I’m hitting Jones beach!

  13. bob dylan Says:

    “Silly: “Well, ummm, I’d love to go see Phish if it’s no trouble… a blowie”


  14. bob dylan Says:

    html fail gosh darn it

    “Silly: “Well, ummm, I’d love to go see Phish if it’s no trouble… a blowie”


  15. kayatosh Says:

    GD’s post on pg. 1 — $$$. that about sums it up re. Miner.

    and this $$$ shot from alf;

    i love also how all the sounds and approaches from their entire career seem to be at their disposal right now, and every now and then there are jams that just stunningly shape or combine past sounds into a totally new sound or style.

    we are in the sweet spot. would love to be there with you all for a show or two this tour. not in the cards for this east coaster. flirted w/ thoughts of UIC and SanFran, but not gonna happen. couch and tapes for me.

    good discussion on balancing fam/kids and phun. I live that balance everyday. amazing to think a band I was bonkers for as a wild eyed college boy is still a passion 20 years later as I attempt to hold it down for a fam. of four.

    this place has been instrumental in fueling the passion.

    jerry week day 2: 10.22.71 — loser, bLack Peter, CRS, comes a time, cumberland blues, TOO->deal

  16. kayatosh Says:

    don’t give it up
    you gotta an empty cup
    that only love can fill

  17. lastwaltzer Says:

    “Bought a ticket from a brother for half face…”


  18. butter Says:

    Very nice piece Miner

    Yes the jamming diversity has this fan scratching his head

  19. SillyWilly Says:


    don’t forget to spin some acoustic Jerry!

    been on a big bluegrass/acoustic kick lately

    being at family parties outside where it’s hot as fuck and cheap schwilly beer is plentiful always makes me want to hear bluegrass

  20. Dr Pronoia Says:

    @GD – just saw your post from last night.

    Joe Jr’s was the first floor of my building for the first 4 years or so I lived there, and was my daily bfast and coffee spot. Loved that place and the guys who worked there. Ate next to John Stewart, the lady from Sex and the City (SJP), and Bob Kerry (?), the president of the New School, along w the full spectrum of village life. We were so pissed when our landlords raised their 30 year lease to get them out, after a very small fire as an excuse, only to be replaced by a hipster coffee spot, for $6 small coffees and mustache spotting.

    Also love that magazine store, and the liquor store right there, and Charlie Mom for Chinese on the corner. It’s so funny how small-town NYC is. My whole life is in a 4 block radius, and you end up fiercely loyal…

    Just another example of BB synchronicity

  21. Leo Weaver Says:

    Grinding IS grinding Silly…buuuut…

  22. SillyWilly Says:


    good to see that you didn’t get eaten by a bear

    how was the trip!?

  23. HarryHood Says:

    I would like to second all of the comments on balancing Phish and family. I spent the best part of 15 years (1995 – 2010) being able to see any show that I wanted at pretty much any time, barring the usual money/logistics issues. Whenever tour was announced, I had no one to answer to aside from my boss who didn’t really care what I did as long as I had the vacation time to take.

    Now I’m 30 (31 next Monday), I’ve got a 1 year old, a job that requires more than a normal 40 hour workweek, and a girl who could care less about Phish. Willowed’s advice about timing your intentions with the Mrs. is great, but I have to offer some real “take it from me” advice to you young guys. Before you end up tied to someone for the rest of your life who makes what you want to do a daily challenge or even a fear, make sure you know what you are getting yourself into. You don’t have to be with someone who likes Phish because that’s like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. You just need to be with someone who respects you well enough to let you enjoy your interests in life, regardless of how obsessive they may be. I think I speak for most of us here when I say that we are all aware that our love of this band borderlines on neurotic, but we also know where to draw the line between being responsible and irrisponsible. Just like we all understand that about each other, it’s important that your partner understands that about you as well. I love my daughter more than anything that I’ve ever loved in my life, including Phish, but being able to do the things that make me happy, including seeing Phish, is essential to keeping my head level and being a good person and good father. Unfortunately, the woman that I’m with finds my interests to be selfish and irresponsible and makes enjoying them nearly impossible. I actually sold my Superball tickets due to the fear that even mentioning going was going to result in a custody battle for my kid………. Not trying to bitch here, I’m blessed with a wonderful kiddo and a wonderful job that provide more happiness in my life than I can explain, but I just wanted to offer some words of advice from someone who has “been there”. Sorry to sound like the old guy………..

  24. kayatosh Says:

    oct. 71 — pigpen home sick w/ alcoholism, keith, the new guy, adding a lovely piano color to the palate. jerry’s voice – young and heartfelt.

  25. lastwaltzer Says:

    Great piece Miner. This is definitely the biggest plus of this era. When they do go deep we know its gonna be interesting.

    When the plinko turned up over the new years I was a little nervous that most of the jams were gonna be set around this new style. Love that it turned out to be one of many new tricks.

    Personally I’m really enjoying all of this deconstructing type of jams like the Boogie>waves and the pnc drowned. Shit just melts apart.

    Also loved the Crosseyed from Bethel and the blossom sally because they incorporate so many of these new tricks.

    Leg Two

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